July 4th, 2019


Béla Fleck and the Flecktones - Chennai

Let's finish this miniseries with what might just be a crossover too far. The Flecktones are known for their peculiar bluegrass/jazz fusion, something never really appealed. Most times I've heard them I've been put off how showbiz they were, and how it sometimes sounded like their instruments were playing them rather than vice versa. But Chennai from their 2006 album The Hidden Land adds a new musical influence and it all starts to make sense.

It helps that Chennai is less flashy than most of their stuff. I'm never going to be okay with Vic Wooten's bass sound, but its slappiness doesn't dominate here. Rather we're treated to a track based around Jeff Coffin's flute, and he really does seem to know the Indian-style phrasing his instrument. He shares the lead with Fleck's banjo. It's quite possible to make a banjo sound like a sitar. The two instruments share a brilliance of tone, but Fleck clearly isn't going for mimicry here.

Is this all entirely successful? No, not really, but it is a lot of fun. I especially recommend the video of this performance where the band pass the lead between themselves with extraordinary speed and the poor lighting tech trying to point his spotlight in the right place simply cannot keep up.

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones - Chennai